Recently, I’ve had several people ask me how I’m able to get so much writing done.
I guess I understand why they’re asking me the question: I’m writing my novel, I maintain a professional blog, and I’m a freelance writer. All of these three are full-time jobs within themselves, and to juggle all of them at once is no easy feat.
So, it makes sense that people want to know how I’m so productive.
I’m sure people also want to know because, like some of you, they’re haunted by this vicious monster:
In fact, writer’s block is probably the most written about subject in the online writing world.
It’s for this very reason that I generally avoid the topic of writer’s block all together. But it’s also a topic that I get asked about a lot. So, it looks like sooner or later I had to write about this topic, right?
The Number One Cure For Writer’s Block
I guess it’s time for me to present to you my personal, one-step cure for writer’s block, and it’s actually a lot simpler than you think.
Here it is:
DETACH YOURSELF FROM THE OUTCOME
Most of the time, when I can’t write, I know that it means I’ve attached myself to an outcome.
By outcome, I mean the “end product,” and by the “end product,” I mean the perfectly polished book resting on bookshelves and inside Kindles all over the world.
I believe that attachment to the outcome is the biggest thing that gets in the way of a writer becoming more productive.
Writers can get soooo focused on the end product that they become overwhelmed and panicked—and this leads them to not begin the work in the first place.
I’ve heard writers start a novel and declare that within a year—WITHIN A YEAR—they plan on being published.
Really? I mean, I’m not saying that it’s impossible—I’m certainly a believer that anything is possible—it’s just that I’m a little worried about the state of your mental health if you decide to pursue such an ambitious goal.
Because asking yourself to get your book done and published in a year—especially if it’s your first time around—is putting so much pressure on yourself that you might not even get started!
Giving yourself such an ambitious short-term goal might also make the wonderful process of writing your novel a nightmare—possibly worst than the worst 9-5 job you could ever imagine.
And wait—didn’t you start to write novels so you can actually enjoy your work? As opposed to having a heart palpitation every time your opened your laptop and desperately tried to outrun the clock as it kept ticking and ticking away?
Instead of torturing yourself, then, why don’t we take all of that pressure off of your shoulders?
Let’s just let go of what your book might be (or what it was) and simply be with your novel. Simply be with your novel as it is—right now—and don’t ask for it to be anything more.
Did you all just release a collective sigh of relief?
I thought so.
See? Aren’t you more eager to write today now that you don’t feel it has to produce some grand result?
What Attachment Does To Your Novel
I recently took a month break from my novel. I’m glad I did, because when I returned to it, I immediately noticed the difference between the passages in which I was rushing the entire story—when I was attached to the outcome—and the passages in which I simply enjoyed the process for what it was—when I had detached myself from the outcome.
When I was pushing to create a “finished product,” I could see that this “attachment” attitude had strangled the passage by not allowing it to breathe. My attachments prevented the passage to become what it was meant to become gradually, not quickly.
As I read over my draft, I found sentences that had a razor-edged, robotic-like tightness. I knew that when I wrote these sentences, I was really trying to force the story out as if I was squeezing all the toothpaste out of the tube all at once.
These “tight sentences” are not what I ever wanted my book to be like, but, of course, those sentences became that way because, when I wrote them, I allowed my attachment to the outcome take over the writing process.
And it was this attachment to an end product that had sucked the gorgeous nectar straight out of some of the passages in the book.
On the other hand, I was also able to recognize that there were several beautiful passages that flowed very nicely and captured the voice and style of the piece perfectly.
These passages, I could tell, were written without an attachment to an outcome. I could tell I was simply enjoying myself as I was writing them, and was allowing myself to postpone any hard edits for some time in the future, when the work was ready for that.
What Attachment Does To Your Life
The rule of detachment not only does wonders for your novel, but it also does wonders for you life.
You see, when we are attached to the outcome of things, we rush through life in a panic. We are grasping for awards, successes, and accolades we hope to get in the future; or we are attempting to resist potential punishments, consequences, or failures that we remembered receiving in the past.
And so when we grasp for what we think we want (or try to avoid what we think we don’t want), our life becomes constrained and tight like a rope. When we are attached to the outcome of every single endeavor, our life lacks its natural richness, flexibility, spontaneity, and fruitfulness—to put it more bluntly: it lacks its magic and power.
But, as soon we let go of our attachment to an outcome, we almost immediately begin to produce more work, and we may even begin to enjoy this producing.
When we detach from outcomes, we become more productive because there are no more feelings of fear or panic.
The fear, panic, stress, or pressure vanishes because we now know that the reward of writing is simply to write, and the reward of life is simply to be. So as long as we write, we’ve done good—and as long as we’ve lived, we’ve done even better.
Free Yourself From Writer’s Block
I have found that as soon as I detach from any need for my work to be more than what it currently is—I am freed. I am freed to get straight to the work and not delay.
I don’t demand that my work yield fabulous results, or be perfect. I don’t demand that my work fix my life, solve all my problems, and make me rich and famous by the end of the week, or month, or by the end of the year.
If I were to do that it would be so unreasonable and unfair—not just to me, but to my work. Most importantly, it would be unfair to my readers.
My readers deserve a book that isn’t rushed, that doesn’t always have its eye on the end result. My readers deserve a book that is rich and full, that develops gradually—and that was clearly a joy to be written, as it was a joy to be read.
This is key, because a reader can tell if you didn’t have fun writing what you wrote.
But if you keep attaching yourself to the outcome, you will continue to become more and more overwhelmed. You will continue to be blocked. You won’t get any work done, and worst of all, the work itself will suffer.
That’s because a great book requires you to be present to life’s true wonder, goodness and positivity. It requires you to let go of your attachments to future successes, or to past failures, and it requires you, most of all, to be present and live life with joy.
(If this doesn’t work for you, you may have a more serious case of writer’s block; in which case I’d like to refer you to the most recommended book on the C2C: Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way)